Authors: Juliana Stone
“No, I guess I don't. That's one thing we can agree on.”
The feelings inside meâthe hot, heavy, angry onesâhad nothing to do with Trevor and everything to do with my dad. They were always there. Waiting for a chance to explode. They were etched into flesh and bone, and they colored everything in my life.
I thought of my mom and her sad eyes that poked out from underneath her perfect bangs when she thought no one could see. I thought of the denial that she clung to every single day, denial that she pretty much ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And I thought of my father. Of how this morning as he spread peanut butter over his stupid bagel, he'd said that he'd be dropping Isaac off at a friend's before heading into the city for errands.
. You'd think he'd at least come up with a new excuse, because that one was getting old.
I didn't ask him when he'd be back because I didn't care, and he didn't volunteer that information, so I figured that he was up to no good.
There it was. The sad story of Everly Jenkins. That was all that I had time for, and it was exhausting.
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you. Really, I didn't. That was a stupid thing for me to say. I'll see you tomorrow.” The words were wooden and the apology pretty darn sad, but it was all I had.
“You look tired, honey. Are you sure you're up to going out?”
I glanced at my dad for help, but his nose was buried in a biker magazine and he didn't bat an eye. Kind of convenient, the magazine, but in a house run by the woman standing in front of me, with both hands on her hips and that penetrating gaze that could see through anything, not really a surprise.
My dad is a big guy. Not only is he tall with broad shoulders, he's built like a brick house. He's got bulging biceps, an affinity for tattoos, and a shaved head to boot. The tattoo thing we have in common, and though I can look him in the eye because we're pretty much the same height now, I'm more on the lean side. On the football field I was the go-to wide receiver because I was built for speed, while my dad would have been the center or fullback.
He's an intimidating dude, and when he wants to, he can look pretty damn scary.
Except he's so far from scary it's laughable. Don't get me wrong. My dad's temper has a slow fuse, and when it's lit, he has no problem using his size to intimidate anyone who wrongs him. And he's more than willing to back that attitude up with his fists. No one pushes him around. I mean, no one.
Well, except for my mom.
She has him by the balls, and he's totally fine with it. He told me once that a good woman was hard to come by and even harder to keep. He said that when I found the right girl, I'd do whatever I needed to do to make her happy. Case in point? A few years back, Dad took up line dancing because my mom wouldn't stop talking about it.
Can you imagine? Talk about a bull in a china shop.
At the time I thought it was lame, and Nate and I used to razz him about it.
I mean, he was about as far away from those line dancing guys as you could get. But my dad would just shake his head and grin. He told Nate and me that even though he had two left feet, it was worth it because it made my mom happy. He said that one day we'd learn what it meant to put someone else first.
One day we would learn how a smile could knock us on our ass.
All of that was fineâhell, it was his life and allâbut I couldn't help but think that when Mom got all up in my shit, he should at least stick up for me. Wasn't there some kind of guy code?
“Trevor? Did you hear me? I think you're a little pale. Maybe you should just stay in. Your first day studying must have been intense. You might have overdone it.”
Here we go.
The words came out a little sharp, and I heard my dad rattle his magazineâhis warning for respect. Whatever. I needed to get out. I'd been pissed ever since Everly blew me off at the library, and these days, my temper doesn't have a slow fuse. It can turn on a dime, and right now, I felt something brewing.
I needed to get out.
If only I could find my damn cell phone. It was here, among all the crap tossed onto the kitchen counter. There was at least a week's worth of newspapers piled up (who actually read the paper anymore?) along with an impressive amount of junk mail.
“Are you looking for this?” Mom asked gently, rooting out my phone from beneath an issue of
. Huh. Since when did my parents give a shit about landscaping?
“Thanks,” I said, taking my cell from her. “Link's gonna be here in a few.”
“Where are you guys going?”
Mom and I glanced up as my sister Taylor walked into the kitchen. Two years younger than me, she was almost sixteen, and her attitude these days fluctuated between hostile and bitchy and, well, not much else.
“Out,” I replied in answer to Taylor's question.
“Can I come?”
“Yeah. I know.”
Mom crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. “You're not going anywhere, Taylor. Or did you forget you're grounded?”
My sister scowled. “Seriously? I wasn't that late.”
Mom moved toward Taylor, and I took a step toward the back door, glad that Taylor had drawn Mom's attention.
“Your curfew is eleven and you tried to sneak into the house an hour and a half late.”
“But it's summer! None of my other friends have to be home until, like, one or whatever.”
“Yes, well, I don't care about your other friends. I care about you. And in this house we have rules.”
Taylor's scowl deepened as she glared at me. “Like he ever came home before midnight.”
She was right about that. I don't think I'd ever been given a curfew. A lot of things had changed after my accident, and maybe it wasn't fair, but Taylor was getting a lot of flack, and I didn't blame her for being upset by it.
“We're not talking about Trevor right now,” Mom continued. “We're talking about you, and while we're at it, I'd like to know who brought you home an hour and a half late.”
I watched the exchange with interest, mostly because it was refreshing not to be the one under Mom's microscope. I got why she was so in my face, I really did, but man, she was suffocating sometimes.
“A friend,” Taylor said, her eyes sliding away.
“I'd like to hear the answer to that.”
Those words came from my dad, and his nose was no longer buried inside his magazine. He pushed up out of the old rust-colored La-Z-Boy, his eyes on Taylor.
“Just a guy from school.”
“A name would be good,” Dad said, and I could tell he wasn't impressed with his daughter.
Huh. He was bad news.
Taylor's eyes widened slightly, and I knew she was begging me to keep quiet. For a moment I had one of those weird blips, almost like my brain slows down and then speeds up again. It's a freaky sensation, and I hated it.
“Trevor, are you all right?”
I nodded, not trusting myself to answer, and shoved my cell into my front pocket at the same time a knock sounded, and then one of my oldest buddies and the drummer in my band, Link, walked through the door.
“Hey, Mrs. Lewis.” He smiled at my mother and nodded to my dad before his eyes slid over to Taylor.
“Nice hair,” he said with a grin.
“You suck,” she said, glaring at him.
Link threw his hands into the air. “What did I do?”
“Nothing,” Taylor shouted. “Forget it.” She pushed past my dad and headed back upstairs.
Link rocked on his feet and shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans. “Man, your sister. What's up with her?”
“Who knows?” I replied.
Link raised his eyebrows in question. “You ready?”
“Yeah,” I said with a rush. “Let's go.”
My mom stepped in front of me, her hands sliding up either side of my face. Her fingers were cool, their touch gentle. “Where are you going?”
“Gonna hit the movies,” Link answered.
My mom's eyes softened, and for a moment I saw the fear that still lived inside her, and I felt like a shit. It was fear that I had put there, and I'd be the happiest guy on the planet if that look would just go away. But I had a feeling it was not happening anytime soon. Maybe it never would.
“We'll be okay, Mom. We're just heading over to the next parish. Their drive-in is running up.”
“It's what?” she asked.
“Running up.” Man, get me out of here.
A heartbeat passed. Maybe two.
My mom cleared her throat, her eyes falling away.
I glanced over to Link and shrugged.
“Okay,” she said stepping away. “Be safe,” she whispered.
“I got him,” Link said with a grin. “No worries.”
“You better, Lincoln. Don't forget. We know where you live.”
That was my dad, and I nodded to him before following Link out to his truck. A beat-up and rusted Ford, it sounded like shit, and I was pretty sure the exhaust wouldn't pass any kind of emission test, but to Link, it was the best ride ever. He'd saved all his money two years ago, and as soon as he'd gotten his license, he'd bought the thing from Old Man Ben's used car lot.
And Old Man Ben had owned the thing since it was new.
I slid inside and leaned back, just now thinking of what I'd said. Running up? I'd meant to say the drive-in was still up and running. That was the problem with my brain these days. Sometimes I skipped words or got the order mixed up and didn't know it until later, if I figured it out at all.
Link threw the truck in reverse, and after a few seconds, we were heading out of town.
“So how did it go?”
“How did what go?” I replied. But I knew what he was getting at. He'd been ribbing me about Everly ever since he found out she'd be the one tutoring me for my government test.
“Don't make me hurt you,” he said with a chuckle.
Link was a good guy, with an easy smile and an
I'm up for anything
kind of vibe going on. His mom was black and his dad was white. And Link? Well, he'd ended up somewhere in the middle. His dreads were an ode to his mom (though she made him keep them trimmed to just below his shoulders), but the blue eyes, they were all from his dad.
He was probably the funniest guy I knew, and he would do anything on a dare. Like once he'd run naked across the football field during cheerleading practice. It had earned him fifty bucks and a week's worth of detention. But that was Link. Up for anything.
“It was all right.”
“All right?” He snorted. “Everly Jenkins is one of the hottest chicks in Twin Oaks. Damn, that girl has a nice ass. And her attitude? Off the charts. AT-TI-TUDE.”
Okay. Link was one of my best buddies, but I was starting to get annoyed. I really didn't want to talk about Everly.
“She's got attitude for sure,” I muttered.
“I know, right?” Link sped down the road. “I took civics with her last semester, and after that Jason guy moved out of stateâ”
“Yeah, you know the dude she dated for, like, two years.”
Huh. How did I not know that?
“Anyway,” Link continued. “Brett Smith tried his hardest to get in her pants. Like, the guy pulled out all the stops. He must have asked her out five or six times. The dude seriously doesn't know what the word
means. One day he grabbed her ass, felt her up real good. I was about to step in because, you know, I don't like that kind of shit, but she slammed her foot down on top of his.” Link snorted and glanced at me. “And she was wearing these high-heeled things. It had to hurt like hell. And then she nailed him with a hard right.”
“What do you mean
“I mean she slammed her fist into his face.”
“She punched Brett Smith?”
“Damn straight she did. Dude's nose was bleeding all over the place, and he cursed her up and down.” Link's grin was huge. “She didn't care. She sat in her seat and took all her shit out, her books and stuff, put them on her desk as if nothing had happened, and then she told Brett that the next time she'd aim for his junk. Told him that she had a pair of steel-toed boots at home and she'd be wearing them to school until the end of the semester.” Link slapped the steering wheel. “Asshole totally deserved to get his balls kicked in, though it never happened because he didn't go near her again.”
“Huh.” It was all I had.
“Yeah,” Link replied. “That chick is fierce.”
About ten minutes later, we pulled into line at the drive-in, and once inside, we cruised for a spot near the back. It's where all the action's at. The downside is that the walk to the concession booth is long, but the upside isâ¦it's where all the action's at.
Monday night at the Starlight Drive-In was double-feature night. Sadly for Link and I and all the other guys who'd shown up to hang out in the back, the movies were both chick flicks. Which meant that most guys would end up getting lucky or arguing with their girl. That's the thing about chick flicksâthey either make a girl question her relationship or they get her in the mood for some heavy making out. It was a fifty-fifty shot, but since I was solo, I guess it didn't really matter all that much.
A bunch of guys we knew from school were already parked, and a couple of them were tossing a football around, cheered on by a group of girls, most of whom were already halfway to loaded.
I nodded to a cute blond sitting on the tailgate of a truck. Her name was Jess, and we'd partied together in the past. She patted the empty spot beside her and I grinned. Things were looking up.
After we parked, Link and I hiked to the concession booth. We were both taking it easy tonight, Link because he was driving so no booze for him, and I knew that if I came home with beer on my breath, my mom would kill me. That's if she could get past my dad. And like I said, Dad is built like a brick house. No way was I messing with that.
I volunteered to pay for our food and had just ordered two large popcorns and a couple of cokes when I heard a soft voice behind me.
I don't know how I knew it was her. I just did.
I grabbed the tray off the guy in the red-and-white-striped apron and turned around. Everly and a girl from school, Hailey I think her name was, were chatting with Link.
I walked toward them and stopped a couple of inches away, not smiling when I saw her, not reacting at all. The girl thought I was a moron. She'd been pretty clear about that.
She was still wearing the same clothes she'd had on at the library. White T-shirt that fit just right and those short shorts that showed off a whole lotta tanned leg. Her girlfriend was dressed for a night out in jeans and a jacket.
“I hope you brought a gallon of bug spray.”
Everly looked at her girlfriend and then back to me. “Excuse me?”
I nodded to her legs. “You're gonna get bit up for sure, and we'll be able to play connect the dots on your legs.”